The following exercises focus on strength, balance, and joint stability simultaneously. They are most effective when done regularly, over 4 to 6 weeks.

Single leg squat
Single leg squats engage knee and ankle proprioceptors and exercise the leg and gluteous muscles.

  1. Stand with both arms extended in front of the body
  2. Balance on one leg with the non-weight-bearing leg extended forward, with the foot off the ground and as high as comfortable
  3. Squat down as far as possible while keeping the extended leg off the floor
  4. Raise the body to the upright position
  5. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side

This activity is advanced and should be modified, if necessary. Modifications include resting a hand on a handrail or performing squat with the toes of the non-weight-bearing leg resting on the floor throughout the motion.


Cone pick-ups
This exercise is designed to challenge balance and proprioception while also improving strength.

  1. Begin in a standing upright position with a cone (or other object) on the floor
  2. Bend forward at the hips, letting one leg extend backwards while simultaneously reaching down to pick up the object and return to the starting position
  3. Place object back on the floor in the same way and repeat

To increase quad/thigh strength, a single-leg squat (described above) can be incorporated into this exercise.

Crossover walk
The crossover walk is ideal for people recovering from knee injuries or for those looking to improve knee proprioception.

  1. Begin with feet a little more than shoulder width apart
  2. Gently bend the knees to a 45-degree angle
  3. Cross one leg over the over the other, taking a large step to one side
  4. Step out so that feet are returned to original position
  5. Do this 5 to 10 times in both directions

This exercise should be done slowly to concentrate on the movements.


In general, proprioceptive training after an injury should be approached cautiously and under the observation and guidance of a physical therapist.

Many injury prevention programs also include proprioception activities. While there are still some things that are unclear to researchers and medical professionals concerning improvement (versus restoration) of proprioception, most agree that a well-designed functional movement program or treatment plan with some of the mentioned exercises can enhance performance and decrease risk of injury.

Dr. Leython Williams is Assistant Head of School Athletics & Ancillary Programs for the University Liggett School in the Detroit metropolitan area. Previous to that role, he served as a licensed physical therapist and facility manager for Athletico Physical Therapy in Royal Oak, MI. He is interested in musculoskeletal function and rehabilitation.